Season opens at home Friday against DC
BY DAVID PEDERSEN
It has been so far so good for the Delano football team as it prepares for the season opener, 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 31, at home against Dassel-Cokato.
“After Saturday’s scrimmage, we know a lot more about our team,” said coach Merrill Pavlovich. “We were happy with the way the kids played on both sides of the ball and were pleasantly surprised with many of the underclassmen.”
The Tigers have to somewhat rebuild after losing in the Section 5 title game to Big Lake 29-14 last season to finish at 8-2.
Delano does return some key team leaders including senior Zach Checkal, a three-year starter who was All-Conference as a linebacker and halfback.
“Checkal is an excellent receiver, blocker and ball carrier,” adds the coach. “He will be one of the top linebackers in the Metro area. He is an outstanding athlete and leader.”
Also back is senior Aaron Klaers, a defensive end who led the Metro in quarterback sacks in 2011.
Last year Delano played in a section as one of the smaller size schools. This season section alignment includes creating a new class with the top 32 enrollments called 6A. There will be a 5A class including teams like Rogers. Delano who will compete in 4A with teams its own size like Hutchinson and Glencoe.
Delano returns seven starters on defense and six on offense, including Austin Wallace, a three-year starter at offensive tackle. Also back are junior tight ends Damon Longstreet and Christian Triplett, senior fullback Ben Ditty and junior guard Wyatt Russek.
All three starting linebackers return in Checkal, junior Toby Hanson and senior Andy Rieder. Senior Dalton Danielson started at defensive end last year and will also see action at quarterback along with Hanson. Triplett also started at defensive and junior Adam Kraft returns at safety.
Pavlovich said other key players are expected to be seniors Dennis Troussov, Arrick Neisen, Ben Stoddard, Oliver Reitan, Robbie Glavas and Aaron Barduson.
Top juniors are Seth Norling, Sawyer Thommes, Jack Nelson, Justin Oja, Jaison Detweiler, Landon Hayes, Zack Linden, Ben Jacobs, Hunter Hart and Taylor Krueger. Nate Meyers, Brett Norling and Aaron Wagner are promising sophomores.
“Our team strength is speed and quickness at the skilled positions,” said Pavlovich. “We also have an excellent nucleus of returning defense players to build around. Nearly all of our players are multi-sport athletes.”
Depth is a concern along with the kicking game and some lack of experience after several key players graduated.
“We are looking forward to a successful season and to be playing our best football in October,” adds Pavlovich.
The Tigers play at Annandale Sept. 7 and at Waconia Sept. 14, before returning home for games against Mound-Westonka Sept. 21, Orono Sept. 28 and Hutchinson Oct. 5. The schedules ends with games at Litchfield Oct. 12 and at Holy Family Oct. 17.